BL BOSTON 200 NEIGHBORHOOD HISTORY SERIES
Henry Adams, the nineteenth cen
tury philosopher, said that the histo
of America is not the history of the
few, but the history of the many. Tl
people of Boston's neighborhoods he
accepted the challenge of Adam's
statement to produce "people's his-
tories" of their own communities.
Hundreds of Bostonians formed com
mittees in each of fifteen neighborhoc
of the city, volunteering their time o\
the past year and a half to research i
in libraries, search for photographs,
produce questionnaires, transcribe
tapes, assist in writing and editing, ;
most important, act as interviewers
and subjects of "oral history" researc
These booklets are not traditional ;
textbook histories, and we have not ;
tempted to cull a statistical sample.
We have simply talked with our
neighbors, people who remember,
sometimes with fondness, sometimes
with regret, but always with wisdon
For each of us has his or her own
story to tell, and these stories are vil
to the development of our neighbor-
hoods and our city.
© 1976, The Boston 200 Corporatio:
Boston 200 is the city's official program
to observe the Bicentennial of the
American Revolution from April igy^
through December igjO.
Kevin H. White, Mayor
Katharine D. Kane,
President, The Boston 200 Corporation
1 Beacon Street
Boston, Massachusetts 02108
so UTH BOS TON
k^ouTH Boston, it has been said, is more than a
neighborhood: it is a state of mind. An almost mystical
quality distinguishes the area and binds its residents in
la network of intense loyalties. Asked where they come
from, whether they be in downtown Boston, Calcutta,
or South Bend, natives will always reply "South Bos-
ton" or "Southie" rather than Boston, New England
or even America.
South Bostonians use the adjective "proud" often
to describe their feelings. They share a nostalgic pride
for a place like no other, whose atmosphere is more
akin to an intimate village than a crowded city.
Part of the district's character stems from its physi-
cal isolation. South Boston is a peninsula. Before 19th
century landfill, a narrow isthmus connected it to the
mainland, and then only at low tide. At high tide the
area became an island. Early settlers attending church
in Dorchester often had to spend the night with friends
there, if the minister preached an over-long sermon,
'^nd Indians who once lived here were forced to wait
jntil low tide to draw their water, for their fresh water
spring was covered by incoming waves.
The peninsula carried a special significance for na-
;ive Americans who called it "Mattapannock." A fa-
vorite, possibly even sacred, Indian meeting-place was
"Pow-Wow Point" (near the "horseshoe" at the foot of
K Street), where their spring was located. Until the
igth century, the Indians held a celebration there ev-
ery year to commemorate an important treaty. Most
of the natives, however, had disappeared before white
settlers arrived. An epidemic of smallpox, or perhaps
measles, brought by the first Englishmen to land in
New England, killed them off. The few who survived
moved to other places, returning only for their annual
feast. Some of the older people living in South Boston
at the turn of the century remembered the yearly rit-
uals and the Indians who camped on E Street, near
Sixth, as late as the 1830s.
Early South Boston was part of Dorchester. In a
sense, it was the reason for Dorchester's settlement.
When the group of Puritans who sailed to America on
the Mary and John in 1630 sent a scouting party to
choose their homesite, the advance group sighted a de-
serted grassy peninsula, with several high hills and a
protected harbor. They decided this "Mattapannock"
would make a perfect pasture and the area across the
bay (now Dorchester), a fortifiable spot for homes and
FRONT cover: Fanagut Beach, c. igio
INSIDE cover: James Brendan Connolly, author of sea-adventure novels and winner of first gold medal of i
modern Olympics for Hop, Skip, and Jump, in iSgy
farms. So they came to Dorchester "because there is a
neck fit to keep cattle on."
The colonists re-named the peninsula "Dorchester
Neck" and used it as a common pasture for the first
decade of Dorchester's existence. It was easy to control
the cows there because they could not stray off and
needed only a narrow fence (around present Andrew
Square) to pen them in.
Colonists owned the land in common until their
population and numbers of cattle increased to the
point where townspeople had to define exclusive rights
to avoid confusion and unfriendly disputes. Only the
elite of Dorchester could put their cows on the penin-
sular pasture. They limited the number of cattle and
forbade pigs and hogs.
The first to build a house on "the Pasture" was
probably Deacon James Blake, who lived where Far-
ragut Road is now. Settlers did not follow Blake in
droves. By the time of the Revolution, there were only
a dozen families living on Dorchester Neck. They had
cleared a few roads, most of them actually "cuts across
lots"; paths were named by their destinations. The
present Dorchester Street was "the Way to the Castle."
A traveler could turn off that road onto "the Way to
the Nook," which led toward the area of Gillette's and
Sts. Peter and Paul Church; this was also called "The
Way to Mr. Foster's." One could follow "the Way to
go down to the Beach," or "The Way to Powwow
Point," or bypass along "The Way beside the Great
Swamp," or the "Little Swamp," both at City Point.
There didn't seem to be any problem with traffic —
the district was more important for protection than for
settlement. Its twin hills (one the current Dorchester
Heights, the other, now disappeared, around Story
Street) on the east, and Nook and Leek Hills on the
west offered lookout points and protection from both
sea and land. The British saw the potential of the area
and built a fort which they called "Castle William" on
a nearby island. During Sons of Liberty demonstra-
tions in Boston in the 1 760s and 70s, Crown officials
and other Loyalists took refuge in the Castle when
things got too tense in town. And, because of the close-
ness of the British fort, after Lexington-Concord, the
few families living on the Neck moved to Dorchester
By the Revolution, colonists were well aware of the
importance of the hills. Because they knew the land
better than the British, they were able to surprise the
Imperial Navy in one of the cleverest moves of the war.
In the winter of 1776, Colonel Henry Knox and his
soldiers moved cannons from Fort Ticonderoga in New
York to Cambridge. General Washington devised a
plan for the fortification of Dorchester Heights and
Nook's Hill. In March, the Americans quietly built
barricades and prepared barrels of stones atop Dor-
chester Heights (to be used to deter British soldiers
from scaling the steep hill). In the dead of a cold,
moonlit night, wagons, wheels covered with hay to
deaden sound, moved the Ticonderoga cannons to the
American redoubts. The English were caught by sur-
prise and saw that the Americans would soon surround
their ships. After a brief cannonade, which killed only
five men, the British troops left Boston forever.
The celebration of Evacuation Day eventually be-
came the most important civic event in South Boston's
calendar, conveniently coinciding with St. Patrick's
Day. Generations of young boys would tell the story of
the battle to any tourist willing to listen:
". . . to Dorchester Heights where redoubts were
built by the American troops, which compelled the
evacuation of the British. The general in command
was General John Sullivan of Wexford. The pass-
word was St. Patrick."
After the British evacuation, the farmers moved
back to the neck and continued their bucolic lifestyle.
In 1804, however, the country ambiance of Dor-
chester Neck was shattered. A group of shrewd busi-
nessmen from Boston recognized the real estate possi-
bilities of the district. They knew Boston was ripe for
expansion and saw the waterfront district to the south
as the most convenient area for annexation. The spec-
ulators bought up extensive acreage on the peninsula
during 1803, and, a year later, petitioned the Town of
Boston to annex "Great Neck" (the eastern end of
South Boston, excluding "Little Neck" — Washington
Village and Old Harbor which joined the City in
1855.) Because the investors had acquired so much
land, they outnumbered, overpowered, and outvoted
the farming families who had been living in the district
for generations. And, over intense protest from Dor-
chester and Dorchester Neck, they were able to annex
the district to the larger town. The legality of this ma-
neuver is open to question, since the speculators did
not actually live in the district. Nevertheless, Boston's
moneyed interests won the tug-of-war and Dorchester
South Boston Bridge, i8§o's
lost its Neck. The town affirmed its control by re-
naming the area "South Boston."
A condition of annexation was that Boston's select-
men lay out "all necessary streets, public squares and
market places," so South Boston became one of the
first planned communities in the country. The survey-
or made a rectangular grid plan from north to south
and east to west. The proprietors thought of naming
streets after mayors of Boston, but since the still-grow-
ing town lacked enough mayors to cover all the streets,
they settled on the alphabet instead, with the exception
of the grand avenue of Broadway, Dorchester Street
(the old "Way to the Castle"), Telegraph and Old
Harbor. The blocks were made wide enough to allow
for the later addition of narrow streets, such as Gold,
Silver, Athens and Dresser, in back of the main ones.
The most important order of business was to pro-
vide easy access to Boston. So the new proprietors pe-
titioned for a bridge. But the question of where to put
the bridge, or whether residents on either side wanted a
bridge at all, became a raucously provocative question.
Bostonians indulged in what one local historian has
called "the Dark Ages of the Bridge Question," one
group dressing up as Indians to sabotage the other,
meetings being disrupted and general havoc raised by
all. Even then South Boston people, once having made
up their minds, stuck passionately to their political
opinions. The Bridge was eventually built, from Wind-
Mill Point in Boston to the foot of B Street. (This struc-
ture and its successors have ever since spent long inter-
vals "under repair.")
The Yankee speculators turned out to be clever i
business people indeed, for, by 1845, the value of South
Boston land had increased well over 450 percent, as
population grew and factories moved into the district.
Boston was still a "walking city," and with two bridges
(the "South Boston Bridge" and the "Free Bridge"),
residents of the peninsula could walk to work in town,
or central town Bostonians to the new industries
springing up in South Boston.
But the decade of annexation did not go entirely
smoothly. During these years. South Boston was
shocked by news of a cruel duel. One Sunday morning
two men. Rand and Miller, crossed from Boston over
the Neck to City Point. They had been close friends,
but had become involved with the same lady, which
had led to the challenge and the pistol duel. Rand
wound up a corpse, and Miller eventually became a
New York millionaire. Nobody recorded what hap-
pened to their woman friend.
A few years later. South Boston achieved notoriety
once more, this time for an execution. Two men, con-
victed of piracy, were hanged at a gallows near the cor-
ner of C and Third Streets. Withstanding intense cold
and frostbite, 10,000 people turned out to watch the
hangman pull the rope — a strangely popular public
In this same period. South Boston again became a
military outpost. During the second war with Britain,
the War of 181 2, Castle Island, renamed Fort Indepen-
dence, served as a strategic lookout, but not without
vexation to the peninsula's inhabitants. Simonds tells
the story of soldiers who frequently stole "pigs, sheep,
fowls, potatoes, turnips and, in a word, every thing
they could obtain" from local farmers.
By the time the war was over. South Boston was
evolving into an important industrial section and an
elite residential area. At the turn of the century Mr.
William Cains wrote of what the new district was like
in his boyhood in the 1820s and 30s:
"The South Boston Association did their work
well and laid out a district that could not be ex-
celled in the entire country. The residences were as
handsome as could be, and were laid out with mag-
nificent gardens on all sides, with elegant shade
trees and numerous fruit trees.
From the close of the War of 18 12 until the begin-
ning of the Civil War, the manufactures so in-
creased that South Boston was second to no place
in the country in the way of industries."
South Boston's industry mushroomed after access
to the town became convenient. Even before the first
South Boston Bridge was built, the Dix and Brinley
chemical works carried workmen from Boston in boats
daily. Mr. Brinley built the first tenement in South
Boston, around A Street, for his workers, naming it the
"Brinley Block." Fishing was always a mainstay of the
district's economy, and dockworkers built ships that
made the peninsula well-known. South Boston was al-
so famous for manufacturing machinery, as well as for
its prestigious glassworks. Thomas Cains was the "fa-
ther of the flint-glass business in the Atlantic States."
The district even got involved in the "Triangle
Trade" through its molasses tanks and rum distilleries.
Several iron foundries produced munitions and parts
for steam engines and locomotives. A few descendants
of these early industries are still in business.
One of the manufacturers to arrive later was the
Gillette Company, which settled in the old Nook Hill
area. The story of the company's founding, as Anna
Morris, president of the South Boston Historical Soci-
ety, says, "sounds like something out of the Arabian
nights . . .
"A man named King Camp Gillette from Wiscon-
sin always had the idea he could invent something.
He tried many things. He tied in with a man in
Baltimore who invented a little stopper for soda
bottles. And one day that man said to him, 'King,
stop fooling around and think up something the
public can use and throw away like my stopper.
This way you will be successful and you will make
money.' So Gillette kept thinking and applied this
idea to many things and never seemed to get any-
where. This went on for many years. He was about
40 years old when he finally came up with the idea
for the razor that we know as the Gillette razor."
King Camp Gillette told this story of his moment
"I was consumed with the thought of attempting
something that people would use and throw away
and buy again. And one particular morning when
I started to shave I found my razor dull, not only
dull, but it was beyond the point of successful
stropping and it needed honing. As I stood there
with the razor in my hand, my eyes resting on it as
lightly as a bird's looking down on its nest, the Gil-
lette razor was born. I saw it all in a moment and
in that same moment many unvoiced questions
were asked and answered more with the rapidity of
a dream than by the slow process of reason."
What Gillette saw was a fine piece of steel clamped
between two pieces of metal. It was the beginning of
the American industrial policy of planned obsoles-
cence. He started his business above a hardware store
in 1905; his company now sells razor blades in the bil-
Long before King Gillette got his inspiration.
South Boston had become an industrial center.
Towards mid- 19th century, as bridges were added and
hills leveled to fill in the "South Boston Flats," the pen-
insula grew into a curious mixture of upper-class resi-
dences and laborers' tenements, wealthy Yankee in-
vestors and immigrant working people, smoky factories
and elegant parks. The district's planners had intended
its wide avenues as home for Boston's elite, seeking es-
cape from the overcrowded city. But the filling in of
the Back Bay denied them realization of their dreams.
The Paris-inspired streets and convenience of the in-
town area over-shadowed the more countrified attrac-
tions of South Boston. Although it remained a favorite
spot for outings and summer vacations, with a number'
of popular seaside hotels and a few ostentatious man-
sions, the vision of South Boston as an elite retreat nev-
er got a grasp on the Bostonian imagination.
Job opportunities in South Boston's thriving indus-
tries drew laborers from the city. Most were immi-
grants, and, in the 19th century, most were Irish.
Working people first settled near their factories, in the
western section of the district, which became known as
the "Lower End" or sometimes "Little Galway."
There was another side to 19th century South Bos-
ton. Because of its isolation from the mainland, Boston
used South Boston as a sort of social wastebasket. The
city built on the peninsula its institutions for "unde-
sirables." The tuberculosis and smallpox hospitals
were located there, as well as the prison, "lunatic asy-
lum," and "house of correction and industry" (the
poorhouse). The peninsula's citizens were none too
happy with their new neighbors. Some began to call
City Point "Botany Bay" after the infamous Australian
penal colony. Conditions in these institutions fright-
ened Irish immigrants so much they said they "would
sooner die in the streets" than go to South Boston.
Once placed in any of these institutions, poor people
found it very difficult to get out. They were separated
from society and religion and felt in exile. Gradually
all of these facilities were moved to less populated ar-
The Great Boston Fire of 1874 burned down the
tenements of Fort Hill where the poorest of the Irish
immigrants had lived. Many of the displaced came to
South Boston for "temporary" housing and remained.
The immigrants provided continuity with their old
community by carrying stones and the bell from their
Fort Hill Church to build their new church, St. Vin-
View from Telegraph Hill, i8§g
Irish were not new to South Boston — there are
Irish names on stones in St. Augustine's cemetery dat-
ing back to the 1820s. But the majority hving in the
district until the 1850s were Yankees and Protestants
of comfortable means. Most felt no affinity for the Irish
except as a source of cheap labor. Although in many
parts of the city, the Yankees moved out as soon as
Irish moved in, South Boston seems to have been a bit
more cosmopolitan. Perhaps because the district was
still young and resilient, the older residents adjusted to
the immigrants. But it took many years to dispel ster-
Before mid-century, anti- Irish jokes appeared reg-
ularly in the South Boston Gazette depicting Pat and
Mike "straight from the Emerald Isle" as stupid, bum-
bling, gullible, ridiculous drunkards. Yankees bragged
that in their district there were "not so many foreigners
(Irish) as in other wards of the City," and that "the
foreigners who reside here, are, for the most part, of
that better class who will not live in cellars, or congre-
gate together closely in order to keep each other
Articles in the local paper almost weekly warned
against "Papism" and told of poor Irish widows duped
by cunning and greedy clergy. The prejudices were
stubborn in dying. The demonic spirit that burned the
Charlestown convent existed, to a lesser degree, in
South Boston. But the attitudes were buried by the
sheer weight of numbers. The same paper that warned
that Irish Catholics shouldn't be allowed to vote,
proudly printed the number of births in the district
that year. Of 628 babies born in 1847, 549 were of Irish
parentage. By the time those children grew up, South
Boston was predominantly Irish, CathoHc and Demo-
crat, and the Irish jokes and anti-CathoHc rhetoric had
disappeared from the local press.
It was probably during this time that South Boston
developed the stereotype it carries today of an Irish,
working class, city neighborhood. It once was that, a
long time ago, but not for very many years. The image
has stuck, however. One Boston historian thinks the
myth of the "South Boston Irish" began in the reality
of laborers in the Lower End in the i86os and 70s. Lat-
er the celebration of Evacuation Day and its coinci-
dence with St. Patrick's Day added to the lore. And
Boston's Irish politicians found it to their own advan-
tage to perpetuate the mystique. But while there are
more people of Irish heritage in South Boston than any
other single nationality, South Boston has not had an
Irish majority for most of this century.
Towards the end of the i8oos, large numbers of
other immigrants began to move into the district. Like
the Irish, all were fleeing political oppression. Prussian
Poles came first in the "Little Immigration" of the
1 850s. As Russian taxation and compulsory military
service made life in Poland more difficult, larger num-
bers emigrated. By the i8gos. South Boston had a Pol-
ish church. Our Lady of Czestochowa (St. Mary's),
with the Rev. John Chmielinski as pastor. The Ger-
mans arrived as early as the Irish, many working in
South Boston's breweries and bakeries. In the i88os
and 90s a surging Lithuanian nationalism and Russian
dominance brought many Lithuanians to America.
South Boston became a center of Lithuanian life and
cultural activity as Lithuanians established two
churches in the district in quick succession.
In the early 1900s Italians entered the area, and
Czechs and Slovaks followed. The Czechoslavakian
Constitution of 1918 was partially written at the Czech
Club on Columbia Road. One local resident remem-
bers Jan Mazaryk, who was to be the first President of
Czechoslovakia, sitting at her kitchen table with her
father and his friends arguing over the wording of the
document, which they based on the U.S. Constitution.
Later immigrations have brought people from Estonia
and Latvia, Albania, Armenia, Russia, and in recent
years, Greece and Puerto Rico. Most have come to es-
cape political oppression.
As the 20th century began. South Boston was still
"a hilly peninsula, thrust into the beautiful harbor like
the arm of a combatant on guard." Several of its hills
had been leveled for landfill, so it was no longer as iso-
lated. But to get to South Boston, you still had to, at
some point, go over a bridge. The district had become
a cosmopolitan community with a diverse population
of many ethnic groups and varied professions. It was
characterized by strong religious traditions of many
denominations. South Boston had sent the first Baptist
missionary to Hawaii, and, in this century, was proud
of a local boy who became a Cardinal and Archbishop
of the Boston Archdiocese, Richard Cardinal Gushing.
As a cousin of the late Cardinal notes, "Religious
groups attracted more recruits from South Boston than
from any other part of the country. We've had more
people called to the religious life than any other com-
munity of this size."
South Boston once had two synagogues. The Jewish
population were mostly Germans who either inter-
married or moved out of the district. One resident re-
members as a child, " 'making the stove' for my Jewish
neighbors on Saturday so they would have some heat
and listening as the elderly grandfather said his prayers
with his prayer shawl on." While it has lost its syna-
gogues. South Boston still has more churches, Protes-
tant and Catholic, than any other area of its size in
Twentieth-century South Boston, as writer Al
Lupo says, became "the symbol of neighborhood, with
all the poetry and parochialism inherent in the word."
When long time residents talk about growing up in
South Boston, a wistful smile often crosses their faces as
they remember walks on Castle Island Bridge, rallies
Suffolk Glass Factory
St. Augustine's chapel and cemetery, the oldest Catholic cemetery in New England
at Flood Square, the kids they "hung with" on the cor-
ner, college ices at Joe's Spa, Miss Bayle's elocution
They talk fondly of the attractiveness of their pen-
insula. The beaches are the scene of many childhood
memories: "I never understood what children in other
places did all summer, if they didn't spend all day at
the beach." There are a few who remember the old
Reservoir where South Boston High is now, and others
I who recall the Thursday night dances at Castle Island
when the Irish "living-in" girls walked over the wood-
en bridge on their evening out. Many a romance
grown to a Golden Anniversary began on those Thurs-
day nights. Around the time of the First World War
there were pageants in Marine Park with dances and
foods of many nationalities. And about that time Billy
Sunday, the evangelist, set up his tent and attracted
great numbers of curious spectators. During that war,
many foods were scarce — sugar cost over a dollar a
pound — and one resident remembers:
"I was a victory boy — in seventh grade. There
were victory gardens set and victory boys were sup-
posed to earn money to help service agencies. Earn
five dollars some way. We'd contribute piecemeal
to school. The teacher would mark it down and you
got a little button to wear that you helped."
In South Boston, as everywhere else, Prohibition
was circumvented by a few citizens. Some remember
people ("not my family, of course") boating out to
Rainsford Island, where currents washed up boot-
legged cargoes dumped overboard as the Coast Guard
boat approached. And one native told about his fa-
ther's cellar still. All this while South Boston had some
of the most active Temperance Societies in the city.
In the summer, people from all parts of the city
would take an open trolley for a cool ocean breeze or a
dip at Carson Beach. They came "all the way from
Brighton, without changing cars, for a nickel." In the
days when most families had no automobile, the trolley
i lines were much more extensive than present M B TA
routes. Transportation became more important, as
j more people worked in town and in other parts of Bos-
ton. Many second and third-generation South Boston-
ians began getting jobs as policemen, firemen, teachers
or civil servants.
And South Bostonians recall community celebra-
tions, minstrel shows and talent contests, Saturday
nights at the Strand, football club rivalries and the
Fourth of July bonfires ("Everybody seemed to be get-
ting ready for it for three months."). But what they re-
member most is an indefinable intimacy, a certain
neighborliness, a comfortable predictability and a
sense of belonging, a kind of good-humored concern
that gives continuity to the community's identity.
But South Boston "is not all one big happy urban
family collectively cooking soup all day for its sick rela-
tives." In the last few decades, the district has felt the
pain that has infected America's cities. Its population
has dwindled as young people grew up and moved to
the suburbs. Unemployment and economic insecurity
prevented many families from keeping up their homes
the way they would like and some fell into disrepair.
The first housing project in the country had been built
at Old Colony — a model development. But the two
projects that followed displaced many families who
were never able to come back to the district. The City
seemed to ignore the peninsula when it came to funds
for public works, parks and schools.
Plans were formulated to fill in a large portion of
the harbor and destroy a huge chunk of City Point for
an "E.xpo 75" bicentennial world's fair — a plan
squelched by fervent community activism. And Dutch
Elm disease killed many of the beautiful trees that
characterized the district. South Bostonians began to
feel the intimate neighborhood they loved being
threatened. Their fear and apprehension has, in the
last decade, focused on the issue of involuntary busing
of public school students, ordered by the courts as a de-
segregation measure. The school crisis has concen-
trated all of the neighborhood's anxieties; South Bos-
ton's nerves have been exposed. While it is too early to
know what the last few years will mean in historical
perspective, South Boston people express a variety of
Steamboat, Locomotive, Hon*
zontal and Upright, Tubular,
Flue, and Cylinder
Shlps^ Water Tankm,
Iron Rooff«, Door?, and Shnttcn
for Buildings, Gag Holders c
all sizes made and put up.
Second-hand Steam Boiler
bought and fold. Old Boiler
bought and sold, or exchange
Repairs done at short notice
Wast First, cor. Granite St. (opp. tlie %\m HonscX South-Bostoni
reactions to the current crisis. "Forced busing is de-
stroying our community," warns one resident, "unless
it is stopped. South Boston will be a wasteland within
five years." "I've gotten to know a lot more people
than I ever knew before busing," comments another.
"I think it's a lot stronger community than it ever was.
People now in South Boston will stop each other on the
street and talk with strangers about busing." A third
citizen refers to the "so-called busing issue" because "I
think it's wider than busing only. The climate of the
district has changed."
Changes in their community disturb the people of
South Boston and they are concerned about its future.
But South Boston has never lost heart, and residents
are determined to maintain its character. They realize,
as never before, the value of their neighborhood and
that they must preserve the spirit they cannot replace.
The best way to discover the "state of mind" that is
South Boston is to listen to South Boston people de-
scribe their lives and memories of the neighborhood
Dennis Manning was horn in the Old Head of Kinsale,
County Cork, in 1883 and came to South Boston in igoj. At
age g^, ^^Din" knows all about world events. He watches se-
lected TV programs, loves to listen to debates and keeps up
with the ballgames. Some years ago Alarming sold his home
and moved to an apartment in Dorchester because he "couldn't
Boston Beer Company, c. i8go
hammer a nail." In his younger days he worked in logging
camps in California and can tell many tales about his traveling
adventures. Here he talks about immigrant life in the D Street
section of South Boston in the early igoos:
"To come to America, you had to be sponsored or
needed money with you. If you were booked into Bos-
ton and, of course, landed in EUis Island (Castle Gar-
dens), it didn't cost anything extra to come by the Fall
River Line to Boston, once you passed through immi-
gration. There was no formality overseas then; you
just went down to the dock and bought your ticket for
the ship. I had five pounds with mc. The pound was
worth five dollars in those days. I had one or two ad-
dresses here and my brother was supposed to meet me.
We came into South Station — Broadway Bridge was
up for repairs.
"There was nary a bit of trouble to become a citi-
zen in those days. A politician would take four or five
down and that was it. Some of them didn't know how
to read or write, much less know the history of the
"For fun, the greenhorns would get together at the
home of different friends. Thursday night was their
night off (usually Sunday also) and someone would
bring a squeeze box (concertina) or a fiddle and we'd
all have a grand time, a kitchen racket or breakdown,
as it was called. Lots of fun and laughs and occasional-
ly they might have a cup of tea but rarely any food.
"Most of the greenhorns went to work on the boats,
or on the railroads. Some went in groups into the wool
houses. Some did sugar hauling and during the 1904
strike the teamsters wore their union buttons inside
their caps so they wouldn't be seen. The street carmen
started the union. They wrote their names all around
in a circle so no one would know who'd started the
union petition. Johnnie Lombard from South Boston
worked in the fire department and made about $ 1 2 to
S14 a week; the policemen were getting $2 a day and
the longshoremen averaged $9 a week if you got put
"The living-out girls made about $2 to $2.50 a
week, plus room and board. They never had a key to
the front door, only the back door, the 'tradesmen's en-
trance.' They had to be in at 10 p.m. They weren't al-
lowed to have friends in but occasionally you could sit
on the back porch, or if the cook was friendly, she
would make you a cup of tea in the kitchen. Sometimes
the cook would switch meat on the family and cook the
opposite. If the lady of the house complained, she
would say, 'If you can't eat it, how do you expect us to
eat it?' Some living-out girls stayed their whole liv
with one family and were well treated. Others left ar
went to work in the factories.
"Many of the immigrants who came to South Be
ton and Dorchester, usually two or three in the san| i'-
family, cousins, brothers or sisters, slept in the sa'
bed, all bunked in together. Five dollars a week, ro
and board. Course there were no bathrooms or ti
Sometimes you had a toilet downstairs. We'd go c
to Dover Street to take a bath on Saturday night — ! >
just take your own soap. Towels cost one cent.
"My wife used to work for Falvey's in South B lo
before we married and she used to 'run cash' tak
change from counter to counter, or she'd put a p an^ j
the money on a string and the cashier sitting j in th
'crow's nest' would haul it up and send yack th
"There were lots of breweries in thos Jays befon
Prohibition; some were in Roxbury Crr ing, Haffen-
reffer's and others. They had big horse' nd long dray;
with barrels piled high. The horses 1 ked somethint
like the Clydesdale horses, some I xink were called
Percheron. There was a Double Di' iond Brewery and
a Boston Beer Company on Ser id Street in South
Boston. The Boston Wharf owne .nost of this area and
leased the buildings.
"Some of the other buildi _,s around Melchor and
A Street were Middleby's, Z .'ex, who made jams and
syrups, the American Can ar the railroad yards, the
button factory, and A.S -^ynch's Barrel Factory, ;
barrel cooper related to • j Lynch's Taxi in South Bos
ton now. They had a ' iss factory and you could see
the forges pouring br j in the molds. During World
War I they had pr' ners of war down on A Street.
"Wool took a b cing when synthetics came in and
shoes were beaten / foreign imports, but in those days
the Regal Shoe;^ .ad a place on Summer Street and
there was the Jnion Bootery. They're gone now.
Thom McAn .arted with a little pokey place on A
14 Ella Tew (Mrs. Patrick Walsh) as a young lady
"The Boston Molasses was located down near the
'oint. Tom Kechane worked there and they made
um. Big ships used to come into the wharfs. Loads of
oal for Metropolitan Coal Co., Domino Sugar and
*hers. I worked in Kessler's on A Street. All Irish
rked for them. You could smell leather all the time.
^ hides came from South America and you had to
laKe the salt off them on the docks and bundle them,
c ") hides to a box car and then they were sent to
K own tannery in Pennsylvania or New York.
'i. e were no ticks in the South American hides. They
sec ' sheep dip while the sheep were alive and that
elpt to kill them. The western U.S. sheep had tick
larks •^ht through the hides — they would spoil the
:ather. fter I retired from Kessler's I used to walk in
)wn to X ston almost every day. If the weather was
Dod I'd \ 'k along the strandway to Castle Island."
ATRiCK V\ LSH u a ^'Lower Ender," and proud of it.
lived as a bo_ m ''Uhe biggest tenement building in Amer-
a," and made mi v digging clams with his father and uncle,
-king or doing oda hs on the fish pier. He remembers women
aking fishnets for tK ■ husbands. ''''They had handnets with a
<le on it; they also ha, 'ng nets that let down. Toud see them
icking out the windows ind they'd hang eelskins out the win-
>w to dry. They used i use them for sprained wrists and
rained legs, like you'd u bandaging tape. Another thing
ey did was there was a cert ■ kind of oil they could get from
h, and it was very good. 1 v used it for colds and every-
^''Packy" spent an adventuro youth with the Merchant
larines. When he returned to Sou Boston he met and mar-
?d Ella Tew, from Third Street, a^ a persistent courtship;
e couple recently celebrated their ^ nd anniversary. Mr.
^alsh worked as a cooper, making b 'els on the docks, a
illed trade that is no longer hand-done, ^e also worked in a
ool building on Summer Street, at a tin. when most of the
orkers were immigrants, but the manager,, und owners from
d Yankee families. "'There was 14,000 men working on
mmer Street, in little wool buildings," says Packy. "Today
I donU think there's 14 men working." Being an Irish Demo-
crat could be difficult at times:
"Ninety sLx percent of all wool merchants over here
were Republican, you know. I'll never forget the time
I was working in a consignment house. They used to do
50 million dollars worth of business a year; that's a
lot of business. In the west, now, in a place where they
have a lot of sheep, they'd find a person that would
truck all the wool into them. And then they'd bag it
and ship it. These people used to take and sell it for
them. And, of course, they used to do quite a business.
But the outfit I used to work for owned a specific mill,
the American Wholesale Wool Association and the Ar-
lington mills and they processed the wool. They used to
ship it up there and process it and practically have it
all sold. I worked with Mr. Farnsworth. I used to take
care of his office. I used to sweep out his office and ev-
erything in the morning.
"There were Irish too who worked in this same
place. Some of them were very nice; others were boot-
leggers. It was during prohibition. And they'd stoop so
low, they'd steal the tea and coffee bottles the fellas
used to bring to work; they'd steal the stoppers out of
"Why I left this place. That's the time Hoover was
coming to Boston, so they all had flagpoles. The office
upstairs used to put out the flag. I used to put out the
flag. I put it out for Hoover. Then Al Smith was com-
ing and without getting any orders — he was a Demo-
crat, you know, so I put the flag out. The super come
and saw the flag out — they were all Republicans. So he
said, 'who the hell put the flag out? I said, T did.' 'Get
that flag down.' So I wouldn't take it in. 'If you want
that flag in, you take it in.' 'No, you're supposed to
take it in. If you don't take it in, you'll get fired.' I said,
'Before I get fired, I'll quit.' So I quit."
''There have been too few Polish people interested in politics,"
says young Jack Kowalski. ' ' We've had one person in particu-
lar, ]o¥. Alecks, who's beenin the business for 4oyears. He's
passed bills through the legislature on a city and statewide ba-
sis. He's been sort of the father of Polonia." Joe Alecks talks
about the Polish in South Boston and his own upbringing:
"My first job was to lug bottles of milk for H. P.
Hood & Company when they were across the street
from Vinton Place and faced Old Colony Avenue,
where the housing project is. We used horses and
teams. I got 50 cents a night. And then I went to work
on a farm in Concord during the summer. I lived
there. There were 100 acres right on the Bedford-Con-
cord line and the house was built in 1 720. We used to
find Indian arrowheads, tomahawks, spearheads.
There were springs there and the Indians used to have
a camp there. I was getting a dollar a day and keep.
We worked from dawn to dusk, seven days a week. I
was always late coming back to school because I went
to work to pick apples in Boxboro. So I le-d a healthy
"As kids we used to hang around the corner of Dor-
chester Avenue and Dexter Street over by the tunnel.
At that time, you had a big field where the junk yard
is today. When we saw Kelly, the cop, come down, we
ran. He'd make sure he put his one foot down after the
other to make a noise. There were no ifs, ands or buts,
because he gave you a backhand so we behaved. There
were a lot of Poles in that area at the time. And there
were some fights with kids. Come out of school and
they call you a lousy Pollack and throw stones at you.
But it wasn't that bad and we played with everybody
in the neighborhood. There were Italians, Irish and
English. One of my best friends was Don Musico who
runs a cafe there on Dorchester Avenue. There were
the Donovans and the Gormans and a few other Irish
families went to St. Mary's parochial school and they
spoke better Polish than the Poles themselves. Of
course there was sports. When we were kids, we played
hockey down in Columbus Park when they flooded it.
Football, baseball, like any kid would.
"When we didn't have automobiles, we used to go
to picnics. We had picnic grounds in West Roxbury,
Dedham, Weymouth, and in Bedford. Before the War
we didn't have TV and not all of us had automobiles so
we got buses to pick us up in front of church and take
us to these places. We'd dance, eat and drink. But the
days of meetings, of clubs and joining organizations is
"A Polish American club was founded about 1900.
And then it was not what we call an organized club —
it was more a place you could gather. Most of the
members were from St. Mary's parish. They needed a
place to socialize. We had other clubs, too. The Polish
Young Men's Club, for instance. That was across from
Billy's Market. The real organization of the club came
in the late '20s on Dorchester Avenue, across from the
junk yard. There's a union headquarters there now.
The only heating there was this big pot-bellied coal
stove. So we decided to build a better place. I was an
officer for six or seven years, director, vice-president,
president. I still go there for meetings. Now it seems to
be the center for Polish unity. Before the clubs, the
leadership was the church. But now the church has
lost its leadership.
"When the Pole came here, he came from a coun-
try that always seemed to be devasted by wars. Eco-
nomically they were very low because they were kept
down. They were serfs. A Pole — the word itself means
land or field. If they owned a little piece of land, they
were happy. So they would come here and buy a
house. It may not be the best and they spent the time
to fix it and keep it in good repair. And they took pride
in it. Years ago it was a shame to be on welfare. People
used to help each other. They worked hard. They may
have had two jobs. They would have entertainment
down at the club or go to a picnic — wouldn't cost
"When the Pole came over, there was, of course,
the language barrier and prejudice from others who
had been here before. They began to feel insecure be-
cause the Pole worked like a horse and it created ani-
Broadway, c. igij
mosity and hatred. They were afraid the Poles would
take over. Even in the churches.
"Our people were God-fearing people. Poland is a
country that really follows religion. Even though it's
behind the Iron Curtain 95 per cent of the people are
Roman Catholic. Now, to get married over there, they
don't consider the church a legal marriage. So what
people do is they get married in city hall and then they
go to church and get married. I was in Poland last
year and I have a cousin over there. My cousin's
daughter got married on Christmas Day and it was
like a belt-line. They were getting married every half-
hour. On Christmas Day. Now, only this Sunday,
there was a marriage of a couple who got married in
Poland and they came over here and got married in
church. In our church last Sunday.
"There seems to be a renaissance of Polish learning.
Young adults are more ethnically conscious. In the
past, a lot of Poles denied their birthrights. But they
are becoming aware of the great contributions the
Poles made to the world's history. A lot of the contribu-
tions that Poles made to this country as well as to the
world are not in our curricula in our schools. At one
Castle Island Bridge
time, Poland was the third largest nation in Europe.
The boundaries went from the gates of Berlin to the
gates of Moscow. And then during the partitions, they
chopped it up. Now we are trying to take our rightful
place in the academic world by writing the history of
our contributions and getting it to the public."
"/n the summer, I live at the beach,'' attest many South Boston
mothers. The district's beaches are one of its most attractive •
advantages, and residents made the most of the sun and sand.
The beaches were even more important before most families had
automobiles. Josephine Gerald talks nostalgically of
her amusements as a young mother:
"I used to take my daughter down to the beach at
the foot of K Street. It seems that each street had its
own private beach. People that hved nearby met down
tlaere all summer long with the children, and the kids
had a lot of fun. At K Street there was a yacht club
they called the Mosquito Fleet and it was on four pos-
ters and a ramp. We used to put our blankets under-
neath to get out of the sun. Several times during the
summer we'd ask our friends who didn't live in South
Boston to come over and we'd make a picnic basket
and walk down. Nobody had cars at that time. Every-
thing was walking and streetcars. We'd go to Castle
Island and spend most of the day. We had the bath
houses, the boys' and the girls' and they were a couple
of old wooden buildings. Mayor Curley, when he be-
came mayor, fixed the whole beach. He tore those old
buildings down and built new ones and he built a bath-
house for women where they have the school. And he
really made something beautiful out of that beach. We
had friends that came from out of state or from Cali-
fornia and people that had travelled all over said that
we had the most beautiful beach. Another good thing
about the beach was that it didn't cost any money.
And people didn't have any money.
"In fact they wanted to put amusements down
there at the beach. For years they tried but everybody
said no. We liked it the way it was. On Sundays we had
a band concert and everybody would have an early
dinner and rush over to try to find a spot because peo-
ple came from everywhere. We sat on a few benches
and the ground and listened for a couple of hours — it
"I remember when my daughter was born. I was a
young girl, a very young girl. There was a moving pic-
ture house right on Broadway between I and Emerson
Street. And I lived near M Street. Every week the man
would come by and put coupons in our mailboxes to go
to the movie for one nickel and that coupon. And ev-
erybody, we'd all get together, we'd put the baby in
the carriage, go over, park the carriages outside and
see a whole afternoon of movies for a nickel and you'd
hear babies crying. It was several years later they
built the theatre on Broadway near the five and ten.
That was the first one that was built. We used to rush
Saturday night, and you'd think we were in a big pa-
rade. Everybody would be going to the movie. We had
a wonderful time and we'd come out and everybody
would talk to each other.
"And another amusement we had in the summer,
most every wife would have supper ready for her hus-
band early, at least I did, and you'd pile up the dishes
in the sink and go down the beach. And that was long
before we had the nice beach. We'd walk back and
forth, way down to the Head House, where I would
swim. And you'd meet the same people every night all
summer long and you'd walk down almost near Castle
Island and back again. We'd stop and sit on the bench.
That was our fun. We enjoyed it. At that time every-
body enjoyed things."
A talented musician, Norman Kaupp'^ smile lights up a
room. Irving Kowalker, an artist, is a gentle, peace-
loving man with a memory for details. Eric Wart-
ma u g h tells us that his mother, a local midwife in the days
before babies were born in hospitals, delivered Cardinal Gush-
ing. The three close friends are active members of the Church of
St. Matthew and the Redeemer on Fourth Street:
Mr. Kaupp: "I've been in this district all my
life — since 1897. Grandma Kaupp came over from
Germany. My father was born here. My mother was
born in Frankfurt, Germany and she came to South
Boston when she was eight years old. My mother came
over here with an aunt.
Mr. Kowalker: "My parents were born out-
side of Berlin, Germany and they came around 1900.
They didn't like the military regime, the kaiser and all
that. My grandfather's mother was a Hines of 'Hines
Pickles.' My grandfather was one of the first homeown-
ers on Columbia Road. The houses there were devel-
oped about 75 years ago. Johnson was the big builder
of all those houses."
Mr. Wartmaugh: "My father was in charge of
Manchester City Yard — in Manchester, England. He
was in a very good position. But we had relatives here.
He had a sister that lived near Dorchester Heights.
Their name was Goodwyn — used to shoe horses, Reu-
ben Goodwyn. We came over and stayed with them
until my father found work and eventually we moved
Street Scene in industrial section, c. i8go
down to Oslo Terrace off 5th Street. And my father
worked for Walworth's like everybody else did.
"They used to call that the madhouse. They had
iron gates. The whistle blew at 7 o'clock and you're
crossing the street and those gates closed, so you went
into the hall and you stood there and the man tele-
phoned upstairs. I called him my Uncle George. He
was about six foot two and he would call up. 'Eric
Wartmaugh is down in the hall here.' If the boss liked
you he'd say, 'Well, send him up.' If he didn't, he'd
say, 'Tell him to come back at noontime.' So you could
lose a half day's pay. I've seen men go in Monday and
father and uncle
with three friends
in §-man bicycle race
at M Street Park
they didn't have many orders from the main office so
they said, 'Well, come in Wednesday.' You could lose
two or three days a week."
Mr. Ko walker: "My grandfather took an aw-
ful riding because he was German. He worked at Wal-
worth's and he was called the old German and every-
thing else and he used to come home in tears some-
times. They'd ride him something terrible. And he was
so dead set against war. My grandfather and my father
were the same way. They hated war. Yet they used to
ride them to pieces. We had a family that lived in back
of us when I was kids and they used to throw stones at
us because I was German. This was right on Columbia
Road when I used to go to school. Not a lot of them but
there were isolated kids. First World War. And my fa-
ther came because he didn't like the kaiser regime. I
was so dead set against the military myself I didn't
even want to put a uniform on when I went to high
school. I didn't like uniforms. And here I am one of the
biggest heroes in South Boston as far as that goes. Sec-
ond World War — I got medals going down to the floor.
Not of my own free will, but we were stuck with Japan.
What are you going to do? I joined right after Pearl
Harbor. I got out of the war in '45. I was so glad to get
out of the war.
"I went right back to my post card business, which
I was sorry I did because I should have gone in to the
government like all my friends did."
Mr. Kaupp: "Usually in the papers you see
South Boston described as an Irish working class com-
munity of closely knit families. The Irish were not cul-
turally, socially dominant in South Boston when we
were younger. Things have changed. A lot of Germans
and wealthy protestants all got their lace curtains and
moved out of town. There were some very wealthy
people in South Boston, all Yankee families."
Mr. Wartm AUG h: "That's right. There was Dr.
Fletcher up here and the Duffy's had that estate and
where O'Donnell's is was another estate. There were
lawyers and doctors here. And the Dean estate. Then
they started to move out and other ethnic groups
moved in. Like the Italians were down at Emmett
Street; down around Andrew Square is the Polish ar-
ea. There were clubs. There was the German Club."
Mr. Kaupp: "The German Club, the night be-
fore a holiday, they'd invite the children and of course,
they had German food like sauerkraut, pig"s knuckles,
p>otato salad, r\e bread and steins of beer. And the kids
^^•ere given beer to drink. There w as never any trouble.
We'd be there until about two in the morning, singing
and dancing and ha\"ing a regular good time.
"There were six Protestant churches and there was
lots of social acti\-it\' between them. We used to go to
the churches for their social times, suppers and things
like that. You could take any of these churches in
South Boston and at least twice a week there was al-
ways something taking place, like suppers and min-
strel shou-s and plays."
Mr. Kow.^lker: "Norm was the original min-
strel man there. He plays the piano."
Mr. K.aupp: "Yeah, and in those days they'd
have shows for three days. The same way with the Gate
of Heaven Church. And St. Augustine's. They all had
minstrel shows. In fact, I'll say this about South Bos-
ton. It was noted for having the most talent of any sec-
Mr. W.JkRTM.^UGH: "I remember when the Re-
deemer burnt down. March 4, 1959. My son was in the
choir that day. But he got out. All the kids got out. We
ne\-er really knew how it staned. But in a way it was
the best thing that ever happened. It brought the
whole congregation closer together. It was a rejuvena-
tion. The congregation built up after that. For a while.
And we merged with Grace Church. And it made it
stronger. Instead of ha\-ing two weak churches it made
one strong one. And the other congregations in South
Boston all contributed money."
Mr. K.A.UPP: "The church's activities have
changed since the early '60s. You don't have as large a
congregation. We've lost a lot to the suburbs. And new
ones haven't come in to take their place."
Mr. Wartmaugh: "The church was more im-
portant when we were young. You had to go to church
in those days. And you'd walk along the boulevard.
Hundreds of jjeople used to walk on the boulevard on
Sundays. There was the church school prior to the
morning ser\-ice and at night there was ahvays evening
song. That was well attended becaiase in those days you
didn't have tele\Tsion and all the other distractions.
That's why the lodges \s ere so strong too — the Masonic
Mr. Ko walker: "And families were more to-
gether years ago. Tliere was more of a friendly spirit.
You'd help each other, you know. Sunday noontime,
the meals used to be the thing. Ever\'One was there.
And you'd dress up. And you all sat down to a roast.
It's altogether different now."
Mr. K.\upp: "When we were young South Bos-
ton was more of a beach resort. I remember Marine
Park, the amusements, the stands all along 6th Street.
And we had the aquarium. The open cars used to come
along Farrugut Road and they'd go out as far as Xor-
umbega for 5 cents. Then there was a lot more acti\ity
over at Castle Island. During the summertime there
were a lot of programs for children. When I was a
child, they had Punch and Judy shows and they used
to give us ice cream. Of course, the cannons were all
out there. There was a bridge going out there at that
time. It was a boardwalk all the way out. There was a
drawbridge too for boats. They used to go from there
over to the .South Boston Yacht Club. And then we had
the Head House for seafood dinners. We had concerts
from the balcony. Every Sunday they had a band con-
cert. And at Linkletter's Field they had a tent pitched
ever\' summer at 8th .Street. They used to have evan-
gelist services there. All the different churches would
attend. Linkletters — no relation to Art Linkletter —
owned all that property. .A^nd they used to have bon-
fires the night before the Fourth down there. \Ve'd col-
lect all the barrels and rubbish and bring it down
there. And Andrew Square used to be a popular place
for the circus.
"South Boston has changed physically. At the foot
of M Street was Lawley's Shipyard years ago. And
then the House of Correction was there. And there was
another place they called the 'crazy house.' And then,
Reverend Cardinal Cashing at ammi Th.: :
of coui-se, where the anny base is toda> on Sunmier
Street, that was all fields of cattails. \Ve kids used to go
there in the siunmertime. I saw Commonwealth Pier
being built because I \vorking for the King's Ter-
minal in iQiS. And then there w^re those pilings —
Nvliere Bony Ward's used to be — where they used to
take the dead horses. L Street Bridge opened up and
you'd see the horses. And talk about air pollution
today! This is mild comptared to the odor that came
from the island with the dead horses. They'd slaughter
the horses o\^r there aiKl make gelatin from the hones'
Mr. W.xrtmal gh: "There \^-as a home fijr or-
ph:m children. It was nm bv the Church Home Soci-
ety who sponsored children who were orphaned or par-
tially orphaned. My mother died while we were at Os-
lo Terrace and we stayed in the Church Home for a
number of years. Then my father remarried and we
Perkins Institute for The Blind, Broadway
came out again. Later Cardinal O'Connell bought it
and it was used for a parochial school. Then it was torn
down and St. Brigid's Convent was built."
Mr. Kaupp: "It's changed in other ways too. I
was born and brought up here. My sister married.
They got out of South Boston. They Hve in Milton. My
brother moved out to Hingham. And that left my
mother and my aunt all alone. I just didn't want to
leave so I stayed and held the old house. Finally my
aunt died. Then my mother died about eight years
ago. And that left just me. And most of my friends,
they're all out in the suburbs.
Mr. Ko walker: "South Boston never really
enjoyed too good a reputation. When you say you're
from South Boston many people look down their nose
at you. It's a shame to say but there have been people
in South Boston who didn't have anything to start
with. They came from poor families and as time went
on, they advanced and moved out. Those kind of peo-
ple today, some of them don't like you to mention
Many immigrants to South Boston came to escape political per-
secution. Rose Sarg a v a k i a n was a young girl in Arme-
nia when Turks kidnapped her in igi^ when Turkish forces
slaughtered two million Armenians. She has lived at City Point
46 years. Mrs. Sargavakian worked embroidering fancy bead
work on wedding gowns. She and her sister, Armen Sar-
KESiAN, now teach sewing and knitting at the L Street Se-
nior Recreation Center, and play in the Nellie Gorham's Senior
band. The sisters find it difficult to control their emotions as
they describe the miricle that brought them to America. Mrs.
Sargavakian talks about her life after her capture:
"I am from Shabenkaraysar. I was ten years old
during the Turkish massacre in 191 5. They separated
me from my mother and took me to an orphanage.
Then I started learning Turkish. A few months later,
they said they haven't got enough food; they can't keep
me in the orphanage: so they have to give me some
work. They sent me to a Turkish home. They gave him
a little money — like a quarter. They left me there. I
had to take care of a little boy. They had three girls, a
grandmother and a mother and I had to do their work
all the time.
"I was so miserable. Every night, I used to cry. I
lost my sister, mother. I don't know where they were.
And after that, a miracle happened. I was crying to go
to the hospital. I was crying and saying, 'Dear God, let
me get sick and go to the hospital to be away i'rom
them.' The next morning, I got up. I had boils all
along my legs. They had to send me to the hospital.
After I get better, they sent me to another place. Those
people were very good. They took care of me.
"Afterwards, I found my mother, my sister. She
helped me get away from them because she went to a
fortune teller. The fortune teller told her that they
were going to send me away from the city, so they
wouldn't find me anymore."
Her sister, Mrs. Sarkesian, tells how a fortune-teller helped
re-unite the family:
"We went to a fortune teller. We said we didn't be-
lieve, but everybody said they told the truth. She put
the money, just like a nickel, in plain water. 'Look,'
she says, 'I don't want to look at your fortune because
you don't believe it. You are not the girl you say you
are. You are not a Turk.' She says, 'If you want to be-
lieve it, I look, otherwise I don't look at it.' She looked
and looked and said, 'You have a brother, bigger than
you. He is not in this country, not in Turkey. He has
some kind of different hat — an American hat.' She
said just now he was going to the post office to find out
about his family. Then she says, 'You have a sister over
here, but if you don't get her right away, you'll never
see her again because they are planning to send her
someplace else. And you have another brother, blond
and blue-eyed, in Turkey. He is living but you will
never, never find him.' "
Helped by the hints of the fortune-teller, Airs. Sarkesian man-
aged to find her sister and her mother, and made contact with
the brother in America, who got the whole family on a boat to
Mew York. Airs. Sargavakian continues her story:
"What a relief it was to come to America. We came
in 1920. I can't explain how happy we were to land in
America. I lived in New York for nine years doing em-
broidery. Then in 1929, I got married in Boston. I
came here with my mother to visit friends on L Street.
They were hving here. He came to see me. They fixed
it up, I suppose, but I said, 'Impossible — I won't come
to Boston, I Uve in New York.' But the lady said,
'Don't say impossible, you will like it here — you'll
come.' And it happened. He came to New York and
convinced me to come.
"He put me in his car, he took me down the Point,
and he said, 'You know, we bought a house here, this
whole thing belongs to us. Don't you see how nice it is
— beautifiiP' I wasn't married yet, we were just
talking, and I said 'What of it, in New York for 5 cents,
we go all over.' But it made a good impression on me.
Really, City Point is beautiful. I came here and I loved
it. I had many Irish neighbors. Nowadays, they've
gone away, but we had a lot of Irish friends here. I
loved them all. There were a few Armenians who used
to live in the alley in back, but most of the neighbors
were Irish. Most of the Armenians in South Boston
came from around the same place.
"We go to an Armenian church in Cambridge. My
children speak very good Armenian. I think it's impor-
tant. You know, my son used to go to Latin School.
One time I went over there and I said, I wonder if my
son's Armenian hurts his English. I asked the teacher.
He looked at me. 'You mean to tell me Michael speaks
Armenian and writes and reads it?' I said yes. 'Oh,' he
said, 'I'm going to give him more points in English.
That's a good way, your nationality. He should speak
Armenian — that's wonderful,' he said. People should
know where they are from. Who's Armenian? Armeni-
ians are an old, old Christian nation. We had a king-
dom. Very good kings. In February, we have 'Vartan-
antz Day.' Sourp Vartan fought against 60,000 Per-
sians — fought for Christianity. Of course, they lost, but
Christianity stayed. So we celebrate Sourp Vartan Day
"There is a movement for Armenian freedom here.
They are doing things now. Our properties are taken
away. Turkish people got it. After killing two million
Armenians who didn't do anything. So we want it
back. They gather in groups to do something about it.
"We are proud of our heritage, but we like America
too. I like South Boston, maybe because I've lived here
46 years. I belong to the senior citizens at L Street. We
play in the band. We go to nursing homes and hospi-
tals. You sing, you play something. They're very hap-
"I think people in South Boston are friendlier with
each other. You get out in the street. You say hello,
good morning. Other places I don't think are like that.
My daughters say the house is too old, sell it, and go
some other place. I don't want to go. My friends are
here and I'm used to it. I like it here and I like living
A tall, dark, husky-voiced man in his early forties, Arthur
GuLiNELLO is unabashedly sentimental about his love for
South Boston. Arthur, who manages a small appliance shop on
South Street, devotes a great deal of energy to community
groups. Friends know he^s always ready to help when they need
him. Arthur laughs easily as he recalls his boyhood, and com-
pares his sons' experiences of their neighborhood with his own:
"There'd have to be something real big for me to
move out of Southie. I like it here; close to the water,
close to the church. And my roots are here; my friends
"I was born on N Street and lived there for eight
or nine months. My mother was one step ahead of the
rent collector and we moved on to 6th Street. When
I bought this house, in 1963, I was very happy. I was
looking all over the place and found out that this lady
wanted to get rid of her house. I was very fortunate
and I've done a lot of work on it. I like it here.
"My parents came from Sicily. My father came
over in 191 2. He just wanted to leave and come here.
My mother's father came over here and worked for a
gas company and he brought a brother with him. My
mother lost her father, her brother and her mother in
Friends socializing at L Street Recreation Center
the space of six months in the Influenza of 1918. Her
father and brother were here in the country and they
had already sent fare to my mother and her mother to
come over with two brothers. In the meantime her
mother died over there. But she still came. She heard
that her father died while coming over here. So when
she came here there was nobody actually here. There
was just her, her sister and two brothers. She had left
another brother back in Italy.
"In my early childhood — I mean five or six years
old — we were on welfare. Those were poor days. My
father worked as a laborer for a guy by the name of
Frank Cundari down here on 3rd Street. I can remem-
ber my mother going down to the corner of L and 2nd
Street for milk, four quarts for a dime, grapefruits. My
mother going down to St. Vincent de Paul asking for
money for shoes. Those are not happy memories. We
were getting $13 a week and we were paying $23 a
month for rent. So figure it out. But I tell you, she gave
us a good education. We never starved. She might
have, but we never did. And the church helped us out
quite a bit, gave us Thanksgiving baskets, Christmas
House of Correction and Industry, igth century
"We were so poor we couldn't even afford a radio.
But my mother went down to McShanes — I think it
was $16 for an Emerson radio and that, to me, was
pure happiness. We used to come in from outside 1
around five o'clock and start with the soap operas, the
serials, Jack Armstrong. Not a Sunday would go by
without the seven of us sitting around the table listen-
ing to them, although my father would have connip-
tions because I was playing football on a Sunday,
morning and I would show up late for Sunday dinner.
He didn't care for that. But as much as he screamed
the dinner, which was spaghetti as a rule, was still al-
ways in the stove and always warm.
"I sold bait when I was a kid down at the fish pier.
The Head House. We used to catch it, my brothers and
I. Shiners and silverheads used to be out in droves.
Then we would get over to Atlantic Avenue where all
the fish markets are now and we'd sell them. We made
more money selling sometimes than the people who
were fishing. One Labor Day we made $i6 and that
was more than my brother, who was working a regular
job, made in a week. And it was a happy childhood.
You were outside and you met a lot of people and
you'd find a nickel and buy a bag of popcorn.
"We went swimming down at the foot of N Street.
It was a good place. In those days, there were quite a
few gangs. We were called the Tigers when I was a kid,
then the Indians and then I started chumming around
down at O and 2nd Streets and played football for the
Redskins. I played a lot of softball too — for the Hawks,
the Hobos. I played for about three or four teams here
over a span of about 10 years in softball. We used to
hang out at Al's Spa, like the kids are doing now on
"This neighborhood was mostly all Irish. I went to
St. Brigid's Grammar School. Graduated in '45. Then
I went to Thomas N. Hart and on to Southie High.
Graduated from Southie in '49. There was more of a
mixture there but it was still mostly Irish. I would say
almost 1 00 per cent of the kids in the neighborhood
were going to parochial school, for the first grades any-
way. We went to St. Brigid's or Nazareth as it was
"It was much different then. I think there's more
leniency today. I mean I had some good strict teachers
up there and it gave you a basis for adulthood. They
taught you. And they took an interest in you. I don't
know today. They got more freedom. But these nuns
were dedicated. When they went home at night, they
corrected papers. They really took pains in trying to
teach you. They knocked it into you. They made it so
hard for me in grammar school that they made it easy
for me in high school.
"And our parents were harder. As a matter of fact,
my father was so strict that the night before my sister
got married he said, 'be home early.' Her husband was
from Maine and they went for a walk down around the
beach. It was summertime. She went up to him and
said, 'Dad, you mind if I go for a walk,' he said, 'Yeah,
be home early.' This was the night before they got
"As Italians we took a lot of ribbing. The word,
guinea, was used quite a bit. As a matter of fact, one
time I was in a Irish play in seventh grade and one of
the girls quit because I was Italian. This was in paro-
chial school. She quit. She wouldn't dance with an
Italian, believe it or not. But another girl took her
place and I stayed in.
"But I eventually married an Irish girl, a local
girl. There seem to be a lot of Italian-Irish marriages.
I think it makes a heck of a marriage because you're
getting two nationalities that are almost complete op-
posites and you're bringing them together. Of course,
the Italian are strong and stubborn and the Irish have
a tendency to be strong and stubborn so you got two
stubborn people. But if you love each other, you're al-
ways working for one thing, the best for your family.
And I found that. I couldn't have picked a better girl
if the Good Lord had brought her down from the heav-
ens above. As a matter of fact, I always tell her, God
must have put you on earth just especially for me. I
can't be any happier. It has been a happy and a bless-
"In our family there were four boys and one girl. I
was the youngest. We all had certain responsibilities. I
was only seven or eight when the war broke out and
my brother went into the service and my older brother
was in a plant working for the government. We had
odd jobs. I used to get a quarter a week from my father
for an allowance. I washed the floors, emptied the
buckets, things that kids won't lower themselves to do
today. And we made our own recreation. Most of the
time we played at M Street Park. Played a lot of tag,
stickball in the streets. Police were one step behind us
most of the time. It was a normal childhood as far as
playing. Because when you play I think you throw na-
tionalities and religions right out of the way. You play
ball. You play to win. It was a poor childhood but a
"We had our parties with the girls, but I'll tell you,
sports were more important. I got a job when I was a
freshman up at the Hart School. I was a sweeper over
at Fenway Park. The only reason I got the job was so
that I could watch the ballgames. I saw 77 ballgames
in 1946 and I saw the three World Series finals. That's
the only reason I got the job. And I was making mon-
ey. I even saw the all-star game that year. I met quite
a few of the ballplayers. And it's rubbed off on my kids.
They love sports. I figure, like Bump Hadley used to
say — 'you keep them in sports, you keep them out of
courts.' And I believe in that.
"Things are diffflTerent now. Everything is handed
to the kids. You know the old saying, T want to give
my kids ev^erything,' I think that's wrong. I even do it.
My kids are spoiled rotten. But I don't know. My fath-
er was making $13 a week and I'd say there was more
love in that house then you'd find anywhere. We made
our own games and really enjoyed ourselves. My moth-
er wouldn't see me from eight in the morning until five,
just for meals, then out again. But we never got into
trouble. Never had the police. Not once has any one of
my family been in court.
"Religion is important to me. I went to parochial
school for eight years and I've been involved in church
I] activities in our parish. I was president of the Home
and School Association. My two children graduated
from Nazareth too. My own family comes first. You
need the church, because without the church and the
good Lord's blessing you're not going to have a good
"Being an adult with a family now, and looking at
the people I grew up with, none of them are in the dis-
trict now. They thought they were bettering them-
selves leaving, but I don't think they were. Some of
them wanted to buy their own houses and couldn't buy
in Southie. It's very hard to buy a home here, especial-
ly the Point. So they went out. They say there's a little
town out in Braintree that has all kids from Southie in
it. But I talked to quite a few of them and quite a few of
them would love to come back, but not with the busing
"I don't think anything will bring them back now,
because their roots are set in another neighborhood
and their children are growing up. It would be like
somebody asking me to move now. I wouldn't move.
And, of course, if you met a girl that was not from
Southie it wouldn't make any difference to her wheth-
er she stayed in Southie or not, but what more could
you ask for, the beach, the park, the Island, the
church, the school, the transportation. You can't beat
Irish by birth and Lithuanian by marriage, Gerard
Carey feels his family lives in the best of two cultural
worlds. His father, an Irishman, worked as a chauffeur in
New Jersey and migrated to South Boston where he met Mrs.
Carey. "I was born when my parents were vacationing in New
Jersey and came back to Boston three weeks later,''' Gerry says,
"So I can't say I was born in South Boston, but I certainly
was brought up in South Boston.''
"The neighborhood that I grew up in was a good
example of how the Irish immigrated to America. It
was almost like a transplant of a village in Ireland. I
had cousins that lived across the street and around the
corner. So it gave me a strong sense of neighborhood
and community reinforced by uncles, aunts and cous-
ins. My family came from a section of Galway called
Dedication of Laboure Clinic, ig^6
Czech dancers at Marine Park pageant, c. igi8
Connemara, which is an Irish-speaking section. But
the language was used primarily so that children
wouldn't understand what the parents were talking
about. I only know a few guys my age who can speak
"We had Lithuanian kids in my neighborhood as
well as Irish kids. And it was very easy for us to inter-
marry because our cultures, at least in America, are
very much the same because we were children of im-
migrants. So that we all had the European work ethic
reinforced by going to church every Sunday and by re-
"I grew up on East 4th Street between Dorchester
and G Street. Two doors down from where I lived was
a Jewish synagogue. South Boston is a polyglot com-
munity; we have people of every nationality and reli-
gious persuasion. When I was a child it was an active
Jewish synagogue and every Saturday morning we
would have Jewish men coming to worship. So I grew
up realizing that there was diversity in South Boston
from a very early age.
"I went to grammar school at St. Augustine's. I
was an altar boy there. It was a very comfortable par-
ish to go to because the predominant ethnic group was
Irish and, of course, the religious teachers, the clergy
was Irish and the nuns seemed to be Irish-American.
It was a very traditionally oriented school. And it was
a lot of discipline. If you didn't do your homework you
were made to realize that you were deficient. There
were girls, but we had separated classes. It wasn't co-
"When I was a kid the majority of people that I
knew were all children of immigrants. Their parents
were from one 'old country' or another. And they were
either in the factories or the utilities, the railroads or
the MTA. I think children growing up today, their
fathers, some of them, are holding white collar jobs.
All my friends' fathers never had a high school educa-
tion. It was entirely different.
"My children have broader horizons than I do. But
they're a lot more chauvinistic than I was at their age.
I didn't feel as much a part of South Boston growing
up as they seem to.
"I think South Boston is a different community
from when I grew up. The South Boston that I grew up
in was, to a large extent, immigrants or children of im-
migrants. That has changed; just because of upward
mobility, higher level of aspiration and desire to move
somewhere else, people have moved out and those
apartments that are vacant have been filled by people
from all over the city and country. For me. South Bos-
ton offers a neighborhood that I'm familiar with, com-
fortable in. And it enables me to be able to afford to
give my children things that I couldn't afford if I
moved to Lewis Wharf or something like that."
Gerry s wife, Evelyn Carey, represents the third gener-
ation of her family to live in South Boston. A nurse at the Car-
ney Hospital, she feels it important to pass on language and na-
tional customs to her children.
"My mother and father were both born in South
Boston but my mother at about the age of five went to
Lithuania and lived there until she was 15. Her parents
had come over as immigrants just a few years before
she was born, then decided they liked the old country
better and went back, which is really kind of reverse
"My father was born here of immigrant parents.
He's the oldest in the family. He met my mother at a
Lithuanian dance in South Boston, a Knights of Co-
lumbus Dance, and they were married. She was 18 and
he was 19. When my mother came back to South Bos-
ton, she was living with a girlfriend. There were a lot
of people at that time who took in boarders. Lithuan-
ians took in Lithuanians from the old country and
that's how she managed until she got married. She tells
a story about going to the Tuckerman School, which
is a grammar school still in use. When she came back at
the age of 1 5, she had lost her English completely. She
had been reading and writing before she went to the
old country. And they put her back in with first grad-
ers. She didn't last very long, but she can remember
how embarassing it was. Then she went to night
school. I have one sister and both of us were born at
home. My mother didn't believe in hospitals so I guess
I'm a real native South Bostonite. I was born in the
Andrew Square district.
"There wasn't too much outside of Lithuanian peo-
ple growing up that I knew. All my friends were Lith-
uanian, except for the children in the neighborhood,
but I also went to St. Peter's which was a Lithuanian
grammar school. In fact I was the first class that grad-
uated from the school that went through the complete
eight grades. There were a lot of people in the neigh-
borhood who weren't Lithuanians. I had what you call
two sets of friends, your afterschool friends and during
school. But I must say I was much closer with the chil-
dren I went to school with. If you weren't a first or
third cousin, you were related somewhat. Or your fam-
ilies knew each other so it was mainly the same group
of friends even after school. We'd participate a lot
with the girls because there were all these church ac-
tivities, sodality, and school itself You didn't have to
go outside of the church.
"Going to high school you felt in a minority. People
would always ask you what nationality you were, and
I'd say Lithuanian; they'd say, what's that? So you
had to explain what it was. A lot of people thought you
"Neighborhoods change. There's been a lot of
changes around St. Peter's, the Lithuanian church.
The Project area has deteriorated in the past few years.
Where we're living now, it's a nice atmosphere. It's
mainly two family homes; there's one three-decker on
the street; it's a small one-way street. Everyone is very
very friendly. Everyone is very aware of each other but
no one minds anyone else's business unless you want
them to. In the summertime we become very, very
close. Everyone's out. There's a lot of sitting on the
doorstep. Some people you don't see all winter. Every-
one is very private to a certain extent but if you need
help there's five people there.
"Right now I don't want to leave South Boston. I
like it. I always had pride coming from Southie."
Editor of the weekly newspaper of the Free Albania Organiza-
tion, Liria, Dhmitri Nikollaw an important figure in
the Albanian community whose "capital" he says, is South
Boston. A sturdy man with a strong bass voice, Mikolla and
his family moved to South Boston 20 years ago to be near their
"We call Boston the capital of Albanians in Amer-
ica for many reasons. Here was the first church, the
first organizations. And here has been the culture of
Albanians in America. We had great men like Bishop
F. S. Noli who was not only the bishop, he was a writ-
er, a speaker and the prime minister of Albania in
1924. The newspaper, Albania- America, was started in
Boston. That's why there is a majority here.
"There are over 10,000 Albanians in this area. Bos-
ton itself and around Boston — in Braintree, Quincy,
Dorchester, Roxbury, Jamaica Plain, Somerville — all
over. In South Boston there must be about 100 fami-
lies. The Albanian Cathedral is in South Boston. Peo-
ple come from other places. South Boston is like a cen-
ter. But it is very difficult for those living outside, in the
suburbs. People don't have much time now. Every-
body is busy for one reason or another. But they come
to the church on Sundays and they have church ser-
vices and Sunday school. Albanian school is every Sat-
urday morning. They get together often. Our organi-
zation has some affairs. We have a big picnic the third
week of September and we get about two or three thou-
sand people. Then every November we celebrate Al-
banian Independence Day. Most of the time we have
affairs at Anthony's Pier 4 — Anthony is an Albanian.
Sometimes we present films on Albania and as many as
600 or 700 people come.
"I was born in Albania. I came in 1938. I was
about 19 years old. My mother and my brother came
six months before me. Then in Albania my father died,
so I came here and lived with my mother and my
brother in the West End.
"In the old country, we used to think if you came to
America, you just bend down and get the dollars and
put them in your pocket. So that's what I thought.
When I came to the Grand Central Station in New
York City, I saw more people than I'd ever seen in my
life. I was trying to get a train to come to Boston. I was
looking to see the dollars. I didn't see any dollars there,
only people. I came to Boston, to South Station where
my people greeted me and brought me to Barton Street
in the West End. I didn't like it, I'll tell you the truth.
I was crying for a month. Because I left all my friends
and my beautiful country. And there were these big
apartments. It was different than what we'd been
dreaming about. But after awhile we got used to it —
it's a good country.
"When I first came here I worked in restaurants
for a few years. I had a little newspaper background in
Albania. And after Albania was occupied by Italians
we felt that Albanians in America should play a role to
make Albania free again. That's why we formed the
Free Albania Organization and started an Albanian
newspaper. I have been working with Liria 33 years. I
was the founder of the paper. Also I had to work to
take care of my mother and my younger brother, so I
was working on a job and also on an organization pa-
per. When one of the editors who was in charge for a
couple of years left, I took charge and have been editor
since. We have our correspondents all over. We don't
mix up with politics too much. This is more of a culture
and social organization, to get Albanians together and
keep the ethnic group as much as we can.
"I moved to South Boston after I got married
about 20 years ago. Many Albanians were here and the
church was here. I live two streets in back of the
church. I walk to church on Sundays. Most of the other
people living in South Boston, they walk. They're near.
But many Albanians don't go to the Albanian Church
and we feel sorry about that too because we don't have
more than 400 or 500 members. But when they need
the church they always come. When they get married
or somebody dies, they go to church.
"I like South Boston. I never had any problems.
It's friendly. You have to live with people. If you're
bad, they'll be bad to you, so that's the way it goes.
Here there are Lithuanians, Estonians, Polish and of
course, Irish. We are friendly with each other, greeting
each other. Everybody keeps to themselves. Lithuanians
keep with Lithuanians; Italians keep with Italians; the
Irish keep with the Irish. Of course there are occasions
that we get together. Sometimes they come to our af-
fairs, like our annual picnic — 3,000 people, Irish, Ital-
ians, everybody. We have our customs, they have their
customs. We have our church, they have their church.
But there's no conflict whatsoever. Albanians are very
noble and gentle people. They don't like any trouble.
Some Albanian boys and girls, they married outside,
and they bring their husbands or wives to our organi-
zations. They enjoy themselves."
A well-known librarian, Dr. William Fitzgerald
moved out of South Boston during the Depression; it took him
40 years to get back. In the meantime, he has traveled around
the globe, teaching and administering libraries in China, Hong
Kong, North and West Africa. His parents, grandparents and
great-grandparents all lived in South Boston:
"I lived in my grandparents' home until I was 20.
I never had much money, but it didn't bother me. I al-
ways had affection and enough to eat. As a youngster,
I always enjoyed walking. I still do. Very few people in
this community had automobiles. They were just com-
ing in. This was a summering place. We had the Penin-
sula Hotel and people came from all over and spent
two weeks or a whole summer. Ladies and gentlemen
came without cars and stayed. They took their meals
there or at the Head House. The Head House in those
days had a restaurant.
"On Sundays you couldn't do much of anything.
Public ball playing was forbidden. And shops were not
open. The bakery might open for an hour or two. I
used to go to church three times, not because I wanted
to necessarily, but because that was just one of the
things you did. In the morning I'd go to Mass and I'd
go to Sunday school in the afternoon and then we'd
have vespers in the late afternoon or early evening.
"When I was small there were still many areas that
were vacant lots. There was a cow pasture up beyond
the brewery with a spring. I used to drink out of the
spring and cows would pasture there. People don't be-
lieve it now. Then all of a sudden there was a building
explosion. Broadway looked very difTerent then.
Broadway was residential practically all the way to
Dorchester Street. You might have had doctors' offices.
The doctors' row ran from around G Street and H
Street. And there were rather flourishing furniture
stores and other stores down around E Street. But most
of those are gone due to the development of the big de-
partment stores. At one time people locally would buy
in their own neighborhood.
"Very often people have the misinformation that
this was highly an Irish community. It wasn't at all.
There were people of many ethnic backgrounds. There ■
were many people who were British or Scottish. In the
community when I was small we had a very important
Unitarian Church, three Episcopal churches, and
about seven Catholic churches. One is closed, one is al-
most ready to close so there were more people around
and more diversification.
"There was a big German colony here and all the
bakeries were operated by Germans. There was partic-
ularly one big brewery here which had attracted the
Germans to come to work. On almost every streetcor-
ner there was a bakery run by Germans.
"Our whole way of living has changed. Things
were simplified in so many ways because we didn't
have much in the way of refrigeration so your food de-
pended a great deal upon the season. And very few
people had any electrical appliances. The iceman
came regularly to fill up the chest and keep it cold.
Practically all the icemen came from Nova Scotia.
There were many Germans here. A number intermar-
ried and moved away. They had their own church over
on Shawmut Avenue. They had two schools. It was a
goodly size colony. And they were interested in things
like music. They had the Arion Hall, an old fashioned
German place where they could have a beer and dance
and have music.
"The Germans that I knew of lived in the neigh-
borhood of the Suffolk Brewery — that was at Eighth
and G Streets. It took in right down to Columbia
Road. Boy, I smelled the hops!
"Later on many groups of Italians moved in. They
tended to live around First and Second Streets down
below G, E, F. Many of the people of Irish background
were scattered all over the area. The Albanians came
in great numbers. At the moment we have three Al-
banian churches. And Lithuanians and Poles. We have
a strong Lithuanian church and a Polish church.
There was never a great number of Jewish people here,
but they did have a school, a training school. Many of
the Jewish people here ran little shops.
"Things are very different from when I was grow-
ing up. When I was a child, for instance, we had trees
all down these streets. But then the street was widened
and the trees were chopped down and not replaced. At
the head of the street here at Independence Park, we
had a magnificent fountain, we had trees, benches,
flowers. It was just a joy to go up there and sit when
people had more time to sit before television kept peo-
ple home. And you'd have people with baby carriages
and all that. Now it's just a desolate waste and that is
the fault of the City. It's not my idea of a park. It's a
shame the way the trees have disappeared. All of
Broadway, both sides of the street had trees. It made it
much cooler and cleaner and much more attractive."
Strikingly handsome with a shock of snow-white hair and
laughing blue eyes, Joseph Kenneally charms ac-
quaintances with his ready humor and quick energy. Retired as
a manager for the John Hancock, he walks seven miles a day,
all year long, meeting friends who call him "the Mayor of
Castle Island.'^ A former L Street Broivnie, he swims daily
from May to October. He has been married for ji years to the
former Catherine Owens, a third-generation South Bostonian.
"My parents met here in South Boston, although
they came from the same town, Ballyduff, in C!ounty
Waterford. They may have known each other in Ire-
land, but the romance began here.
"They came to the United States for the simple
reason that the economic situation in Ireland was not
very feasible for making a living and for bringing up
families because of landlord tyranny. So they came to
this country where the opportunities seemed to be
"My father was a farmer in County Waterford. My
mother worked as a maid in Lismore Castle, which is
on the River Blackwater.
"They both came over in the Cunard steerages, the
cheapest form of passage. My Aunt Mary was here be-
fore my mother. She had a job as a maid, working for
Judge Fallon. He lived in that big house at Broadway
and N Streets, that used to be St. Brigid's convent. So
Aunt Mary got my mother work in the Judge's house.
"The Judge's wife was rather frugal. Now one of
the things Mrs. Fallon was critical of my mother, was
that she was too generous in the meals she prepared,
and as far as she was concerned, there was a waste. So
this particular day Mrs. Fallon was supervising my
mother and saying, 'Let's see now, we'll have potatoes.
The judge will eat a half and I will eat a half and my
sister who is visiting me will have a quarter of a one.
Now how much of a potato do you want, Mag?' My
mother says, 'Put all the whole damn things in there!'
and she took them and dumped all the potatoes in the
Helen Keller and her teacher Annie Sullivan, at Perkins Institute
pot. So as a result, that was the last job she had with
"My mother lived on Third Street when she first
came, a block from where we live now. In this area,
most of the people were from Cork or Waterford.
There were very few Galway people. The Galways
were down around C, D, B Streets, around Sts. Peter
and Paul and St. Vincent's churches. I can remember
as a kiddo going down there and hearing the people
talk to each other from window to window in Gaelic.
Just as we would expect Italians that came over to talk
to each other. But up our way they didn't speak Gaelic
at all. Only when they had a big secret. There was a
kind of kidding rivalry between the people from differ-
ent counties. The Galways were referred to as the Gun-
ners, and Tips, from Tipperary, Kerry Goats, Cork
Stoppers. The Galway people always claimed they
were more pure Irish than others because they still
spoke Gaelic. They were a fishing people, and the oth-
ers were more or less rural people. But they finally min-
gled. But I don't think any of them came over with any
great degree of education.
"They came over without any real idea of what
they were going to do. They took any kind of job they
could get, as long as they could make some money.
Jobs like construction, which in those days were menial
jobs, and factory workers. My father's first job was at
the Walworth Manufacturing Company on First
Street. He carried melted brass in a wheelbarrow. My
mother always said that was how his hair turned white.
It was a difficult job. He got nine dollars a week. Later
he got a job working for the City, Public Works De-
"While we, as second generation, never had too
much, I'd say we had a great deal more than they had
in the Old Country. My parents saw to it that I went to
school and got an education which they didn't get in
the Old Country.
"One of the things we had in St. Brigid's Grammar
School was Irish History. I used to bring that Irish his-
tory and read it and my father would read it with me
and then he would elaborate on the various things the
Irish history told. There were things about the Potato
Famine and the English landlords and what they did.
So I can say that growing up they gave me a greater
awareness of the problems of Ireland and a great love
"After my father left Walworth's he worked for the
Public Works Department, which was quite an im-
provement. He drove a swill wagon. He was proud of his
horses and took good care of them. I don't know if he
was appointed by Curley, but I do know that the loyal-
ty my father and his associates had for Curley was the
reverence they would have for a saint. They enjoyed
working for Curley because they thought they had a
friend in the City. Maybe it was for political purposes,
but at least he organized them and helped them. Years
ago, they had huge outdoor rallies. I can remember be-
ing a child on my father's shoulders at Flood Square
when James Michael Curley was running for governor.
It was so important to my father that I also see Curley,
I can remember being on his shoulders late in the eve-
ning probably half asleep when Curley made his arri-
val. When I was much younger I took active part in
politics, speaking for candidates. I can remember the
open air rallies at various corners and crowds of people
even at two and three o'clock in the morning listening
to the candidate. The men running for office now don't
get that audience; they go out on house parties or a:
house-to-house canvas to acquaint the people with
what they're trying to push over but when I was grow-
ing up politics was like a baseball game or a football
"I went to school at Saint Eulalia's — St. Brigid's
now. We were the first class to go all the way through
the school — nine grades. The Sisters of Charity were
good teachers. They had it going for them though be-
cause if parents ever heard of your giving them trouble
you got taken care of If a Sister ever gave you a
whack or hit you over the hand with a ruler and you:
Boulevard and Beach, turn of the Century
A'ent home and told your parents about it you'd get
"I started working the end of my sophomore year
n high school in Western Union as a routing aide. A
outing aide is a person that used to bring the messages
:o the telegraphers where they would transmit them to
Dther parts of the country. It was only supposed to be
''or the summer and then fall came and my mother
called up the employment manager and asked if there
was any possibility of my being considered part-time.
They gave me a part-time job and so I finished my last
two years of South Boston High School working part-
time where I finished school about 2:30; I'd go in and
work from about 3 to 8:30 at the Western Union.
"I continued working even during the Depression.
A lot of people worked for the WPA, or on state con-
struction jobs. I don't remember a great deal of hard-
ship in the neighborhood. The immigrant people
trained their children — the first thing to do was get a
steady job. The second generation became better edu-
cated. They took civil service examinations. We then
found sons of immigrants getting jobs as policemen,
firemen, city workers, civil service jobs. Things that the
doors had been closed on in years gone by. I worked
Outside L Street Recreation Centet
for an insurance company, something that would for-
merly have only been available to Yankees. So for the
young men and women of the 1940's, working condi-
tions had changed considerably from when I was a
Alexandra Moriarty, a maternal woman with
strong features and a hypnotic voice, was displaced from her]
Patrick Walsh and children at Carson Beach, igjo's
Lithuanian homeland during World War II. She found a sec-
ond home and friends in South Boston, a home she misses since
moving to Quincy a few years ago. South Boston remains the
center of her social life, and she is a familiar figure in the Lith-
uanian community here:
"Most of the Lithuanians settled in South Boston
and Lawrence where the industries were.
"They escaped because they were persecuted. The
czars forbade us to speak and to teach our children
writing and reading in Lithuanian. Many smuggled
Lithuanian books and written material from one farm
to another, from one family to another to preserve our
language, to preserve our history and to teach the
youth in our own native language. And those who
could escape came to the United States because it was
the only country where you have freedom.
"One came, then he brought his wife and then the
children came and then the aunts and uncles. And
once one settled down, their relatives came all around
and the relatives brought their relatives and friends
and that's how the community started to grow.
"The first Lithuanians when they came here were
all very young, in the prime of life. They established
choirs, drama, theaters. And they had their Saturday
dancing and picnics. They sang in the church choirs.
They had wonderful cultural grounds, stronger than
we ever could.
"We are the newcomers they call displaced persons.
I came in 1949, June 15. I stayed three days over our
friends' place and then we got a little apartment in
South Boston. I went to clean some offices. And my
husband was plucking feathers. He was a rag man with
a pushcart and used to collect old pillows and mat-
tresses — my husband, a graduate from the university
with a law degree, but he couldn't speak EngUsh.
"The first Lithuanians came. They were not intel-
lectuals, but they had such great spirit and love and
they built churches, convents. They produced edu-
cated priests and nuns.
"And then the second generation who came with
all their education did not achieve by far what those
first Lithuanians did, because we got more materialis-
tic. Maybe because we lost so many years under the re-
gimes . . . we lost our most beautiful years, so now we
establish our families, we work, we get houses.
"The second generation that came — those people
already had the opportunity to go to school, to educate
themselves. They were officers, engineers, architects,
professors, doctors. A new generation of intellectual
people mostly. But because of the situation, not know-
ing the language, they grabbed any kind of job they
could. But they educated themselves in the meantime.
And because they were intellectuals they started to or-
ganize, all kinds of organizations to preserve our Lith-
uanian culture, so it would not die. Today we have al-
most 35 organizations.
"We have the Lithuanian Citizen Association,
Lithuanian Veterans Organization. Then we have
Knights of Lithuania — their headquarters are all in
South Boston. And we have Lithuanian Boy Scouts, a
very big organization, and Lithuanian Girl Scouts
which is separate — sea explorers, folk dance groups,
drama club. We have three radio hours and we have a
"Then we have a Lithuanian grammar and high
school on Saturdays. This is a Saturday school, that
only is taught in Lithuanian about Lithuanian history,
culture, geography, language.
"When I came first 25 years ago, the streets were
cleaner, the houses more well-kept; but we still love
South Boston because it reminds us of the first days
when we came to America. It's dear to us because here
is our pulsating heart, our whole life. We have here all
our participation, our banquets, our festivities, our In-
dependence Day celebration.
"You know, nostalgia, that is a sickness that no-
body can cure. When we lived here, all Lithuanians in
South Boston, we were very very happy; but we got
richer, we bought beautiful homes — I give my exam-
ple. I live in Quincy. I have a most beautiful mansion,
but I am lonely at heart and I ask myself, why? What
happened, how come I am unhappy? And you know
why, because in the next house, I don't know who lives
there. I've been living here four or five years and I
don't know who my next door neighbor is. I miss my
Lithuanian people. I'd rather live in two rooms that
have my next neighbor Lithuanian. When I open up
my window, I could say hello, how are you or good
morning. This is a kind of security. We lost already our
country and over here we are losing the touch of each
other and we don't know the other nationalities. And I
think that's why the new generation is so insecure. Be-
cause they do not belong to anything. This one is Ital-
ian. This one is Greek. This one is French. This one is
German. This one is Lithuanian. Each one comes into
their house, shuts the shade down, closes the door and
this is our castle, and the heck with the other ones. And
the young people, young boy, young girl, they go on
the street. He walks around the corner to the drug-
store. That's the only place he can communicate. They
are lonesome. They don't have, and they are torn
apart. An Irish, my husband, he belongs in South Bos-
ton: this is his heart. He moved out and he has a beau-
tiful house, but he is so unhappy up there because he
is missing his people. Lithuanians now all are astray
and far away. And we are unhappy. One has pain in
here, other one has pain here and they don't know
what is the matter. You know what is the matter — they
are suffering from nostalgia. They are missing their
country, number one, and they are missing their own
Faces of South Boston
Katie Kenneally, writer, project coordinator
Anne L. Millet, editor
Jan Cor ash, photographic editor
Harron Ellenson, director Boston 200
Michael and Winifred Bixler, typography
ACKNOWLEDGMENTS: The experience and insights of many South Boston residents contributed
to the making of this history. We would hke to thank especially Ms. Deborah Insell and her
bicentennial class at South Boston High School, 1974, who conducted most of the interviews
for this project, Miss Marjorie Gibbons of the Boston Public Library and the staff of the South
Boston Branch Library, the South Boston Historical Society, Mrs. Anna Morris, president,
John Markuns, Jim Witkin, and the following participants:
Ann Aicardi, Joseph Alecks, Mary Andruskiewicz, Dennis Manning, Robert Marion, Edward Mat-
Pauline Bowler, Professor Thomas Brown, Adeline ioska, Kathy Mikshenis, Margaret Mitchell, Alex-
Butler, Evelyn Carey, Gerard Carey, Anna andra Moriarty, Rita Mulkern, Edward Mullen,
Cataldo, Sadie Caulfield, Debbie Champagne, Thomas Neville, Isabel Newton, Dhmitri Nikolla,
Margaret Clasby, Fr. J. P. Coffey, Alan Doherty Mary Norton, Bev O'Connell, Dan O'Leary,
Ann Dwyer, Martha Engler, Dr. William Fitz- Diane Perkin, Mildred Polansky, John E. Powers,
Gerald, Eulalia Geary, Josephine Gerald, Mike Ethel Provenzano, Mary Reilly, Anna Sargavakian,
Graves, Rita Graul, James Green, Steve Griffin, Rose Sarkesian, Anna Scleparis, Elizabeth Shea,
Arthur Gulinello, Helena Hanson, Debbie Healy, Nina Solomita, Janice Sweeney, Josephine Swir-
Helen Jenkins, Gertrude Katsos, Norman Kaupp, balus, Susan Todd, William Toland, Scott Tuttle,
Karen Kazmouski, Patricia Keefe, Joseph Kenneal- Ella Tew Walsh, Patrick Walsh, Eric Wartmaugh,
ly, Mabel Kerwin, Debbie King, George King, J. Jean Weinshel, Esther Wilson, Maureen Wright,
Irving Kowalker, Jack Kowalski, Ann Leonard, and the L Street Seniors.
John McCarthy, Margaret McLean, Larry Mackin,
PHO TO CREDITS: Michael Harrity, Boston Architectural Center, designer of the South Boston
Neighborhood Exhibit, the Print Department of the Boston Public Library, the Boston Globe,
the Bostonian Society, the Society for the Preservation of New England Antiquities, Eleanor
Morrissey, and J. Irving Kowalker.
SPONSORS: The Boston Neighborhood Histories Project was made possible through the support of:
The Blanchard Foundation, the Godfrey M. Hyams Trust, the Massachusetts Bicentennial
Commission, Workingmens Co-operative Bank, and the people of the City of Boston.
Boston enjoys an international reputation as the birthplace of our American
Revolution. Today, as the nation celebrates its 200th anniversary, that struggle
for freedom again draws attention to Boston. The heritage of Paul Revere, Sam
Adams, Faneuil Hall and Bunker Hill still fire our romantic imaginations.
But a heritage is more than a few great names or places — it is a culture,
social history and, above all, it is people. Here in Boston, one of our most cher-
ished traditions is a rich and varied neighborhood life. The history of our neigh-
borhood communities is a fascinating and genuinely American story — a story
of proud and ancient peoples and customs, preserved and at the same time
transformed by the American urban experience.
So to celebrate our nation's birthday we have undertaken to chronicle
Boston's neighborhood histories. Compiled largely from the oral accounts of
living Bostonians, these histories capture in vivid detail the breadth and depth
of our city's complex past. They remind us of the most important component
of Boston's heritage — people,which is, after all,what the Bicentennial is all about.
Kevin H. White, Mayor